Kelowna woman denied entry to plumbers union clears another hurdle | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna woman denied entry to plumbers union clears another hurdle

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May 13, 2021 - 7:30 AM

A Kelowna woman who recently won a labour dispute that was expected to clear the way for her to gain entry into a plumbers’ union hasn’t seen the welcome mat rolled out just yet.

Alicia Ferri won a dispute against the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada Local No. 170, seven months after it declined her application to become a member and then refused to give her any explanation as to why.

After that March 29 B.C. Labour Relations Board decision, the union applied for a stay of that decision, pending adjudication of their application of leave and reconsideration.

While the application for leave and reconsideration is pending, a May 7 decision from the labour board shows they weren’t successful in getting a stay granted.  

The union had argued, among other things, it would be “irremediably prejudiced” if it had to give Ferri membership, retroactive to March 2020. For example, she would be entitled to access work on industrial job sites through the union’s dispatch system, “despite the fact that, as a pipe fitter, she is only an unsponsored apprentice and as a plumber her skills are admittedly weak.”

Jennifer Glougie, associate chair with the Labour Relations Board wasn’t swayed by this argument, noting that it’s not likely to cause the harm stated.

“With respect to her status as an apprentice, I note that apprentices are regularly granted union membership, provided they work for a signatory contractor and are sponsored for the PIAB,” Glougie said.

“The applicants do not explain why unsponsored apprentices would be problematic for the dispatch system in a way that sponsored apprentices are not. I find no basis on which to conclude the dispatch system is not equipped to ensure that apprentices are not assigned work beyond their level of qualification.”

Glougie also said the union’s impending application for leave and reconsideration wouldn’t be impacted if there was no stay in the original order. If they were to win that argument eventually, the original decision would be stepped back by the panel.

In the original decision, the board was ordered to make Ferri a member and pay $1,203 to cover the costs of her tuition after they denied her entry without explanation.

Ferri, according to that decision, made numerous requests for an explanation but was repeatedly ignored.

"The union chose to ignore Ferri in the hope that she would go quietly away," the board ruled.

According to the decision, Ferri was a plumber and member of the union from July 2007 to 2015, before she quit because of discrimination and harassment, largely due to her gender.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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